The Auditorium Theatre will present its annual King Holiday celebration performances of audience-favorite Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah this January reinventing George Frederic Handel’s Messiah in the form of a vibrant mix of Jazz, Gospel, Blues, Swing, Classical and Scat. The performance features acclaimed soloists Rodrick Dixon, Alfreda Burke and Karen Marie Richardson.  

“Too Hot to Handel has become a King Holiday tradition for many Chicago families, and centers on Dr. King’s global vision of a ‘beloved community’ that embraces the philosophy of change through non-violence,” said Auditorium Theatre Board of Trustees Chairman Charlie Gardner. “In a time where violence continues to plague our great city, we are proud to present a celebration that promotes a positive and unified community through music.”

The conductor for Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah’s 50-piece symphony orchestra and jazz ensemble is Suzanne Mallare Acton, who serves as artistic and music director of Detroit’s Rackham Symphony Choir and choral master for the Michigan Opera Theatre. The 100-member Too Hot to Handel choir is directed by Old St. Patrick’s, Bill Fraher, who serves as director of Concert Choirs for the venerable Chicago church.  The show also prominently features renowned pianist Alvin Waddles, whose solo finale is called the "high point of the evening”  by The Chicago Tribune.

Originally conceived in 1992 by Marin Alsop, music director, and arranged by Bob Christianson and Gary Anderson, Too Hot to Handel first premiered at the Little Rock Baptist Church in Detroit, earning a reputation for its lively vocals and communal revelry. In January of 2006, the Rackham Symphony Choir combined forces with the Too Hot Choir for the show’s Auditorium Theatre premiere in January of 2006. In recent years, the show has been enhanced through a large high-definition screen that captures both the performers and audience members during the concert.

In conjunction with the Too Hot to Handel performances, the Auditorium Theatre’s Department of Creative Engagement utilizes innovative educational programs to engage Chicago Public Schools and other Chicago community students and other Chicago community organizations in the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the power of music and community.

Students and schools are encouraged to attend the student matinee, which is scheduled for Friday, January 15 at 11 a.m. and features a one-hour excerpt from Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah, and is open to any student in grades kindergarten through 12th. Student matinee tickets are $10 and are available at 312.341.2357 or

In conjunction with the annual celebration Auditorium Theatre will also present its 2nd Annual Too Hot to Handel Choral Festival on Wednesday, January 13. The festival is an all-encompassing residency that incorporates choral music and celebrates Dr. King’s vision of unification and communal prosperity. Each participating choir will prepare and perform two choral pieces of their choice as well as the Hallelujah Chorus from Too Hot to Handel, and will then receive feedback and suggested performance improvements from Too Hot conductor, Suzanne Mallare Acton.

Two or three soloists from each choir have the opportunity to perform a selection of their choice from the jazz, classical or Broadway repertoire and work with Too Hot soloists, Rodrick Dixon and Alfreda Burke on vocal technique and performance practice.

Within the festival day, choirs will be treated to a private tour of the National Historic Landmark Auditorium Theatre. They will also have the opportunity to learn more about Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts music conservatory, one of the earliest conservatories founded in the United States, and gain insights to preparing for and maintaining a vibrant career in the arts.Other ancillary events will also accompany this year's events.

For more information on the Choral Festival, contact Christina Bourne, Director of Creative Engagement, at or 312.341.2353.

Ticket to Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah can be purchased online at, by phone at 312.341.2300, or in-person at the Auditorium Theatre Box Office (50 E. Congress Parkway).

2016 Too Hot Dr. Martin Luther King Celebration Bolstered by Choir Festival and Ancillary Events

Too Hot to Handel Choir performing in the annual Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah at The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University (photo courtesy of Auditorium Theatre).